PLUMMER, Thomas William (d.1817), of 6 Lamb's Conduit Place and Mincing Lane, London.
Available from Boydell and Brewer
Family and Education
Vol. London and Westminster light horse 1800-7.
Dir. W.I. Dock. Co. 1812-13, Rock Life Assurance Office 1812-13, London Marine Assurance 1814-16.
Plummer followed his father’s business line. In 1799 the firm of Thomas Plummer junior and Barry appeared at 51 Mark Lane, London as merchants and insurance brokers and a year later they moved to 31 Mincing Lane, in partnership with Upham. In 1804, however, the junior firm disappeared and the senior one became Plummer, Barham and Plummer of 2 Philpot Lane, suggesting that Plummer joined his father’s partnership. The firm, which moved back to Fenchurch Street in 1816, was continued after Plummer and his father’s deaths by his brother John, MP for Hindon 1820-6, in partnership with William Wilson.
Plummer had a finger in many pies. In 1802 he canvassed Ilchester on behalf of his ailing father, who regretted that they could not change places, as his son had ‘considerable talents and I should very willingly embrace an expense to ascertain if they were not adapted to public business ... ’ Plummer duly procured his father’s return, only to see him unseated for bribery. From 1804 he was the London agent for such pioneers of the Australian wool industry as John Macarthur and Simeon Lord, the link deriving from his wife’s family. He took their side in their quarrel with Governor Bligh and in 1809, inspired by his friends, sent Governor Macquarie a memorandum suggesting reforms in New South Wales. He aspired unsuccessfully to the appointment of English agent for the colony.2 His firm were also agents for Lady Holland’s Jamaican plantations and it was this connexion, allegedly, that brought him into Parliament in 1806, as a guest of Sir Henry Worsley Holmes, for Yarmouth. He supported the Grenville ministry, speaking in favour of the admission of Catholics to military office, 5 Mar. 1807, and voting for Brand’s motion following their dismissal, 9 Apr. But he was ‘adverse’ to the abolition of the slave trade, advocating deferment, 10 Feb. 1807, dividing against the second reading on 23 Feb. and, after a spell of absence, announcing on 16 Mar. that suspension of the trade would be better than abolition—he was alarmed at ‘propagating notions of political right among a people so unintelligent and so easily provoked to revolt as the negroes’. He was spokesman for the West India interest against abolition at the bar of the other House. Lady Holland dubbed him ‘Plummer, the orator’.3
In 1807 Plummer contested Hythe with Matthew White*, ‘firm friends of our King and country, the advocates of the Church and State’. Asked why he had deserted his former constituents, he replied that ‘he bought them and of course could not retain them beyond the extent of his bargain’. He was defeated, but informed the Whig leader Viscount Howick, with whose ‘cause’ he identified himself, that he had ‘very little doubt’ of success next time.4 But ‘peculiar circumstances’ prevented him from contesting the Hythe by-election of 1810, and in 1812, standing independently of White, he was again defeated, despite Lord Holland’s and Joseph Foster Barham’s exertions on his behalf. His father had at first disapproved of his venture, but gave in provided that his expenses were limited.5 Thomas Creevey* referred to him as
little Bacchus Plummer, that was in our short Parliament, the consequence of Lady Holland’s West Indian property. We had him at dinner at Lord Holland’s one day, and he made perpetual efforts to distinguish himself by his agreeableness and good breeding: at last he said to Lady Holland ‘I don’t know whether your ladyship is aware that we did ourselves the honour of calling one of our ships after your ladyship: she was the finest and bulkiest ship we had, 450 tons at least; her voyage became the subject to us of the greatest anxiety, she had the misfortune to stick upon a rock and there she lost her rudder, so that it was quite providential that at last she safely reached her port’.6
He was presumably—or was it his brother John?—‘a square little Mr Plumber [sic], their agent from the West Indies’ observed by Lady Bessborough at a dinner at Holland House in November 1811, ‘who was always blundering upon something he had better not’.
After a long story of Sir Harford Jones the little man gave a deep sigh, and observed with great simplicity and apparently à propos de bottes, that Mr Sheridan made a wise remark the night before in saying that though life was too short, everything in it was too long—concerts were too long, speeches too long, stories too long, and all pleasures passed away, leaving behind them regret or weariness.
In the same year he was a promoter of the association for the encouragement of British fisheries and subsequently a company director. He died v.p., 20 Nov. 1817.7
Ref Volumes: 1790-1820
Author: R. G. Thorne
- 1. When his yr. bro. John was born.
- 2. Bodl. Clarendon dep. C.362, T.W. to T. Plummer, 2 July, T. Plummer to J. Foster Barham, 2 July 1802; information from Alan Atkinson, A.N.U., Canberra.
- 3. CJ, lxii. 223; L. J. Ragatz, Guide for Study of Brit. Caribbean, 539; Add. 52172, Lady Holland to Allen [14 Dec. 1807].
- 4. Kentish Chron. 1, 8 May; Grey mss, Plummer to Howick, 12 June 1807.